Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Contest Winnings from Thorzul

Before I go headfirst into Series One, like everyone else in the blogosphere, I want to flash back one more time to Update Series, via a package from Thorzul, who needs no introduction.

For those unaware, Thorzul had his annual Trade Me Anything contest, and coupled the outgoing cards with DVDs, challenging others to guess the references. I ended up winning the remaining inserts of the box. Let's see what was in here.

Topps Pennant: Royals Insert. These were silly, and I hope Topps doesn't bring them back for 2013.

Gold #'d to 2012s:
Rhiner Cruz, Astros. One rookie that I've been told to keep an eye on, though he'll be in last place this year.
Scott Baker, Twins. Forgot he was still on the Twins. Is probably on some other team now.
Aroldis Chapman, Reds. Now that is awesome. A gold numbered card of Chapman goes right with my gold of Andy Pettite's last season before his first retirement, and my gold of Evan Longoria's rookie, which you can't have.
Kyle Blanks, Padres. Apparently a fun player.
Jose Altuve, Astros. Another fun player with great potential. Sadly on the Astros
Travis Wood, Reds. Almost pitched a no-hitter against my Phillies. Still a bit pissed about that.
Trevor Cahill, A's. Now on the D-Backs I think.

Gold Shiny Things:
Jay Bruce, Reds. Very nice, as Bruce is still a pretty big deal.
Hector Santiago, White Sox. Rookie, so I guess he's good.

Golden Moments:
Johnny Bench
George Brett
Josh Hamilton
Matt Cain. I think Cain is the only one I don't have.

Golden Greats:
Mike Schmidt. Always nice to pull a Phillie
Wade Boggs, unfortunately in a Sox uni
Willie Stargell. There are not enough Stargell cards in the world.

A few used Golden Giveaway cards. Thankfully. I didn't want to get let down five times and not get any actual cards.

And the Giants Topps Pennant insert

Overall, some pretty nice cards. Thanks again, Thorzul! Of course, now I can concentrate on Series 1.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Oh, credibility wasted



Why does he keep lying like this? In 2009, Alex Rodriguez said 'Okay, I did steroids, but it only did it once, and I'll never do it again'. Of course, now we know that was bullcrap.

Apparently, A-Rod kept taking steroids, only this time from a different place, some BALCO-esque place in Miami. And that adds to the already-sliding A-Rod slope.

I mean, first he loses his ability to hit. Then he gets hurt last season and never gets back. Then he gets replaced by Kevin Youkilis and is likely out for the season. NOW...THIS! Alex Rodriguez is becoming the most scorned, despised player in baseball, whereas 10 years ago he was one of the most beloved. I mean, from people calling him the best player in baseball to people saying he sucks at life. What a downhill ride.

This hurts the Yankee fans even more, because they've lost their hero, their icon, and the only guy worth a damn, except for the other people on the team worth a damn (which is like 6 or 7 people). It especially hurts his chances at the Hall of Fame, which were definite 5 years ago, and are now very unlikely.

I don't even know what to say. I honestly just don't care anymore. That's how this whole thing has made me feel. A ray of indifference. I don't care if they get rid of him, I don't care if he never gets elected to the hall of fame, I don't care what happens to A-Rod.

It's sad. It really is.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Local Card Show: A Fistful of 10 cent bins

It snowed last night, covering the driveway in a lump of snow, and making it incredibly cold. Yet that wasn't enough to keep me from driving out to the local mall for a card show today. I've been going to considerably less of these lately, but whenever I do go, I make sure to fill a brown bag up with scoured commons and cool stuff, derived from 10 cent bins. Which I accomplished today, from a few different dealers.

2012 Topps Update (I got quite a bit of this): Matt Cain HL, Josh Hamilton AS, Jamie Moyer HL, Adam Dunn AS, Asdrubal Cabrera AS, CJ Wilson AS, Andrew McCutchen AS, Justin Verlander AS, Giancarlo Stanton, Roy Oswalt, a clearly photoshopped Michael Pineda, Rafael Soriano, AJ Burnett, Ernesto Frieri, Jake Westbrook, Brett Myers, Andrew Cashner
2008 SP Authentic: Chien Ming Wang, Frank Thomas, Grady Sizemore, Greg Maddux, Jim Thome, Pedro Martinez
2002 Topps Archives: Luis Aparicio, Rollie Fingers, Fergie Jenkins, Rich Gossage
2001 Topps Archives Dave Winfield
1983 Topps Tom Seaver
1982 Topps Dave Winfield
2002 Diamond Kings ICHIRO
2004 Diamond Kings Roy Oswalt, Brandon Phillips
2005 Diamond Kings CC Sabathia
2000 Topps Update Barry Zito Rookie! Probably worth a lot more after his 2012 season, but not as much as it did in 2002.
2002 Topps Rickey Henderson, Randy Johnson
2001 Golden Moments of Jackie Robinson
2007 Topps 52 Rookies of Ubaldo Jimenez
2007 SP Authentic Nomar Garciaparra, John Smoltz
2008 UD Masterpieces of Hunter Pence
2002 Topps Heritage Kerry Wood
2007 Topps Heritage Randy Johnson
1999 Topps Gallery Manny Ramirez
2000 Topps Stadium Club Curt Schilling
2001 SP Authentic Greg Maddux
2003 Playoff Prestige Rickey Henderson

2012 Topps Prime (Hobby version, which means Thick Version): Desean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Ray Lewis, Ladanian Tomlinson, Drew Brees, Calvin Johnson, Jay Cutler, Maurice Jones-Drew
2012 Topps Prime Gold: Matt Ryan, AJ Green
2012 Topps Prime Primetimers: DeSean Jackson, Josh Freeman
2004 Topps Total Matt Schaub ROOKIE! And if that's not enough...
2004 Topps Matt Schaub ROOKIE! I got both of those from the same dealer. And also,
2004 Topps Kellen Winslow Jr. ROOKIE!
2000 Topps Troy Aikman, Terrell Owens, Marshall Faulk, Jerome Bettis, Tony Gonzalez, Marvin Harrison, Steve Young, Deion Sanders, Edgerrin James
1999 Topps Curtis Martin, Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens, Jerome Bettis, Tony Gonzalez
2005 Topps Steven Jackson, Marvin Harrison, Clinton Portis, Curtis Martin, Larry Fitzgerald
2002 Gridiron Kings Marvin Harrison
2003 Gridiron Kings Rich Gannon (!), Clinton Portis, Terrell Owens, Curtis Martin, Todd Heap
2012 Topps QB Reprints: Jim Plunkett, Dan Fouts, Steve Young and Phil Simms
2006 Turkey Red Terrell Owens, Ray Lewis, Clinton Portis, LaDanian Tomlinson
2007 Topps Maurice Jones-Drew, Marques Colston, Tony Romo
2000 Topps Gallery Randy Moss, Terrell Owens
2004 Fleer Showcase Tony Gonzalez, Ricky Williams
2004 Topps Edgerrin James, Tony Gonzalez
2000 Fleer Tradition Hines Ward, Marvin Harrison
2002 Topps Tony Gonzalez
1997 Topps Terrell Owens
2001 Topps Tony Gonzalez
2004 Flair Marvin Harrison
2007 Topps HOF Thurman Thomas insert
2003 Topps (Heritage?) Tony Gonzalez
1993 Topps Joe Montana (Card 200. The other Montana from that set I got at another show)
1995 Topps Jerome Bettis
2003 Fleer Authentix Ahman Green
2008 Topps Black Brett Favre
2007 Upper Deck Donovan McNabb
1988 Topps Jerry Rice

So yeah, that was a pretty nice show.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Double Upton

This has been a great week for brothers in sports. First, both Harbaughs land a spot in the Super Bowl, and now both Uptons end up on the Braves, or as a certain miniature-horse-loving-bloggers calls them, the Barves.

Let's examine this, for a moment. The Braves outfield next year will be feature Justin Upton, BJ Upton, and Jason Heyward. That means that 2/3rds of the Braves outfield will be made up of Upton siblings.

Maybe that's a little lopsided, too. Both brothers are great players by themselves, but imagine both on the same team. That'd be an experience. Not since the Hairstons have we seen siblings playing together, and the Hairstons were/are mediocre at best.

Also, this isn't a great sign when putting them in the same sentence as the Phillies. The Braves and the Nationals alone have put them into first place already, and their lack of real reasoning in the lineup might bring them below the Mets, which is a scary prospect indeed. But it'll be interesting to see how the NL East race turns out next year, as either the Braves, or the Nationals, or for some strange reason one of the other teams, could take it.

But still, with the Uptons, those Braves are gonna be strong. Heck, I imagine Fredi Gonzalez is combing the nation for younger Upton sibling, maybe to play 2nd base now that Martin's gone.

Maybe, for 2014, the Braves will be made up entirely of Upton siblings. Which would actually be kinda cool.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Stream of Consciousness- Jacoby Ellisbury

The one downside of frigid months like January and February, where illness is in the air, the roads freeze up, and there's no baseball, is that there's nothing to write about.

A former teacher of mine, one that was well loved by 98% of the students that had him (God knows what happened to the other two, though I assume they may have frozen in ice), introduced my class, as well as me, to Stream of Consciousness writing, where you'd take any word from the dictionary, and able to write freely about it. He took the word 'layoff', and I wrote a page-long musing on where the term may have come from, presumably involving the boss' mistress (and you can see the bad pun all the way from the comfort of your home).

So tonight I thought I'd introduce a nice experiment to keep the writing going, and to stay relevant within the blogosphere. I took one of my binders, skimmed its pages and put my thumb on a card, one I'd be writing about tonight. That card was a 2011 Topps Gypsy Queen Jacoby Ellisbury.

Let us begin:

Ellisbury is an odd name, mainly because I'd never seen it before until Jacoby came along, and haven't seen it since. It's unique, like throwing a toaster out the window every 12th of each month is unique. As well as many other things, such as 'not sane', 'unwise', and 'harmful to whoever's mowing the lawn'. It could have just been Ellis, but that's too simple, isn't it. And that makes about 3% of the audience think about that one guy from that one Monty Python whose name was Ellis, who didn't really exist or something.

I think it may have come about from a gravedigger named Ellis. He was busy doing his work, and suddenly, fell asleep at the exact wrong time. Hence the name Ellisbury.

Jacoby is just as odd as the previously panned surname, though not as uncommon. I can recall a Texans player, some college player, and a world renowned blind orthrodontist with that name.

(I kid of course. I've never heard of a college player with that name)

I feel as though they were just gonna name him Jake, like they were just gonna name him Ellis, but they couldn't finish the job. It's like they were gonna add more than 'Jacoby', like it was gonna be Jacobynth or Jacobyce, or something oddly practical like that, but whoever was making the birth certificate died while naming him, like the carving on the cave in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

(This is the second Monty Python reference the writer has made. He realizes this, and will attempt to make more varied references in an attempt to save the audience from confusion)

And now for something completely different. Jacoby is seen, on this card, holding a bat. This much is absolutely certain. The rest has been shrouded in a not-quite-white, not-quite-yellow, too-intricate-to-be-beige border, cropping the nonexistent Boston fans. I kid, of course. Boston fans do exist, their common sense is what's nonexistent.

Another trait of Jacoby's is his tendency to put those tapey things resembling eyeblack under his eyes. Why he couldn't just slather some eyeblack is beyond me, for it'd be much cooler. Instead, he opted for the stickers, the ones that just come off, aren't very reusable, and are a bit of a waste, the exact thing his ancestors had in mind. It's even more ironic if you have the knowledge that his ancestors are Native American. I'm not bashing the Native Americans, mind you. America's done enough of that.

David Ortiz uses actual eyeblack, I think. Actually, come to think of it, doesn't he use the stickers? Him AND Jacoby both waste stickers. Maybe they should have a sticker party, to just apply them together, throw them out together, attempt to make them stick together. Maybe the rest of the team should join in with the stickers, so that when we ask what's killing the environment, Al Gore can now answer 'The Boston Red Sox'


(P.S.- Should I do one of these again, or should I obliterate it before it festers and grows? I swear the next one won't be as offensive, though mother always said never to swear.)

(P.S.S.- I really don't want to see the search tag 'blind orthodontists named Jacoby' being tied to this site. Nor should it become a thing. If it does...then, I won't stop it. But until there actually exists a blind orthodontist named Jacoby, the joke will still be funny.)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Har-Bowl: Two Weeks Away

Well, after much speculating, predicting, and hovering (the latter was mostly done by Bill Belichick, in the most Belechickian way possible), we finally have our Super Bowl match set, and it's one I was secretly hoping for.

The Baltimore Ravens, led by John Harbaugh, with their trusty QB Joe Flacco, and future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, took the AFC. They made this fan very happy by clobbering the New England Patriots, by stomping over them repeatedly until it wasn't funny anymore (I kid, it's always funny). They seem like a fun team, one that's been deserving a Super Bowl nod for a while now.

They'll be facing the San Francisco Giants, led by Jim Harbaugh, with trusty QB Colin Kaepernick, and future Hall of Famer (?) Randy Moss. They made this fan angry by defeating his Green Bay Packers, and kicking them when they were down, but they redeemed it by coming back to defeat the Atlanta Falcons, the kings of irony. I'm not too pleased with these guys, for beating the Packers, but I'm not against them.

That's the thing, I don't hate any of these teams. If I'll root for any of them, I'll probably go with Baltimore. They seem like the better team, and they're a bit more fun to watch. And also, that proves I have nothing against Baltimore after yesterday's much-regretful comments about Earl Weaver.

But still, the whole Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh aspect is gonna be fun. I imagine whoever loses the game is just gonna get the other brother in a headlock after the game, and start yelling "HAVE NOT!" until Mrs. Harbaugh comes in and breaks it up, and tells the winning Harbaugh to take out the trash.

If anything, it'll be good for football. Which is nice.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Sad Day for Baseball

Wow. Two of baseball's biggest characters, and most legendary figures have passed away. On the same day, no less. It really is sad, because I had all the respect in the world for one of them.

Stan Musial was one of the most legendary baseball players on his time. He played for one team over a stretch of time, played until he was 43, and captivated the hearts of Cardinals fans. No St. Louis played down the line could top his classiness, his memorability, and his stats, though Ozzie and Albert came close.

He was a hell of a player, and he'll be missed.

So there. A lot of great words for a great man. Many of those same words won't be used to describe Earl Weaver.

Yes, Earl Weaver was one of the greatest strategic managers of all time, treating the game like a battlefield, and planning his roster like no man before him. He deserves every accolade met.

But, as a Yankee fan, I tended to really dislike the guy. Sure, he's smart and a great manager, but he also terrorized my Yankees for years. He also cursed out every working umpire from the 60's up to the 80's. He was a loudmouth, rude, mass of a human being. The m there was intentional.

So yeah, Stan the man was amazing and will be missed. Earl will be missed alright. Just not as much by me.

(Please don't kill me O's fans)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

#1 Sign of a Slow News Week

This guy's signing is one of the top news stories.

I mean, don't get me wrong, Morse is a great player, but the fact that his sign to another team, and the Mariners of all people, gets highly publicized, proves that we're going through a rut in terms of news stories. Something needs to happen. Michael Bourn hasn't been signed yet. Something needs to happen!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Another Yankee Leaves

Sorry about that. I took a few days off due to no apparent things to write about. But, to quote Eddie Vedder, I'm still alive.

(What, were you expecting something hip, like the Black Keys?)

But anyway, I must report on the loss of another Yankee, this one our 2012 closer, Rafael Soriano. You know, it's one of those things where you hate a player up until the point he signs for your team. I hated Rafael on the Braves, and I hated him on the Rays. And then they sign him as the Next Mariano Rivera (which sounds like it should be hosted by Ryan Seacrest. I know. Two for two on outdated references), and I sorta begin to not hate him. I thought he was good during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Maybe I was biased, but there ya go.

So today, Rafael signs with the Nationals. This I'm fine with. The Nats are a good team, one that's building a stronger foundation to go farther in the postseason. Soriano could add to the already-strong bullpen they have over there.

The problem that leaves the Yanks is who takes over after Rivera leaves. Yeah, David Robertson's an option, but an option that hasn't been well tested. Last season he was injured most of the time. I don't know if he's too reliable. But again, we'll see how the season goes for Rivera now.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Nobody? Really?

I get out of school at 2:30 each day, so usually the first thing I do is check my handy-dandy smartphone for the news of the day. Today was extra special, being that the HOF nominations came out today. So, 2:30, I whip out my phone, turn to ESPN, and find...

...That nobody got into the Hall of Fame.

This puts a damper on the next 365 days of my life, needless to say. The Hall nominations are very important to me, as I like it when players are voted into the Hall. It's an honor, and it's always fun to see who gets in every year. If nobody gets in, which hasn't happen since I was a toddler, then it's really sad, as it's a waste of a perfectly good ballot.

Craig Biggio and Jack Morris should have gotten in.If not one, then the other. It should have been a seamless year for the hall, but it ended up faltering. Maybe thanks to a former colleague of my father, whose name will not be revealed, who thought it'd be a wise idea to vote for nobody this year. I respect the man, but not his decision. At least vote for Biggio, or something.

But yeah. Not happy about today's decision. Will have to wait another year to see someone inducted into the Hall of Fame...and one of them will be Greg Maddux.

My 2013 Hall of Fame Ballot, if I was voting

After two years in a row without any huge contenders, and the older nominees rising to the front, we have ourselves an incredibly tricky ballot this year. For one thing, you have great new players like Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza, but you also have the dreaded three, Sosa, Bonds and Clemens, all three accused of taking steroids. It's a tough year for members of the voting board, and it's a year in which I'm glad I'm not part of it. Though, a lot of great players could be swept under the couch next year, when Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine predictably enter the Hall of Fame together.

But this isn't about Greg Maddux. This is about the ten players that I feel are deserving of baseball's highest honor, enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. I'll rank them in the order of probability of entering this year.

Craig Biggio. Of all the newbies, this is the one that's been getting the most buzz, and it's easy to see why. He's one of the more consistent 2nd basemen of the game, spanning nineteen seasons without too many huge injuries. He's on the 3000 hit list, and has the most doubles of any baseball player. He doesn't have a championship ring, but he made it to the Series once, in 2005, which was good enough. I think that he's an obvious Hall of Famer, and it's only a matter of when he gets in. Odds of making it this year: 2:1

Jack Morris. All the sportswriters have been yammering about Jack Morris for the last decade or so, and while even I got tired of it, toward the end there I started to see they were right. Jack Morris, in his prime, was a hell of a pitcher. He was the star of the 1984, 1991 and 1993 World Series'. He has quite a few rings, but that's besides the point. When he was on target, he was on fire. He was a hard-throwing strikeout pitcher who was at the top of his game for a while. The only reason it's taken him this long to be really considered is the fact that...I dunno, Bruce Sutter and Bert Blyleven needed to go in first? Odds: 4:1

Mike Piazza. This guy was one of baseball's biggest stars for a very long period of time. He won the Rookie of the Year, got an MVP (I think), and is the hardest hitting catcher of all time. Johnny Bench, Jorge Posada, Yogi Berra and Carlton Fisk all hit less home runs than Mike Piazza. That alone should solidify the guy. He never won a World Series, and though he got to one, his performance in it is overshadowed by the infamous 'bat throwing' incident, inflicted on him by Mr. Clemens. And also, people seem to think Piazza took steroids, but I don't. I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame right next to all those catchers I mentioned. Odds: 4:1

Jeff Bagwell. If Biggio is already considered as a lock for the Hall, then Bagwell is sure to get in soon. He was more of a hitter than Biggio, he hit more homers than Bagwell, and he might have been a bigger star than Bagwell. What's gonna slow Bagwell down is his lack of consistency, as he was injured a lot of the years he could have been huge. But I think he'll get in eventually. If not this year, then eventually. Odds: 5:1

Tim Raines. A lot of the sportswriters really love this guy, and I can see why. He's one of the best base-stealers of the 80's, had a nice string of hits, and played the outfield really well. I think his lack of relevance in the 1990's may slow him down a bit, but he'll probably get in eventually. Odds: 6:1

Curt Schilling. If you wanna talk about one of the most dominating pitchers of the last two decades, Schilling is your man. He was the anchor of three straight pitching staffs, from Philly to Arizona to Boston, and managed to win three World Series' between the three (more specifically, between Arizona and Boston). He was the only reason to go to Phillies games in the 1990's after Kruk left. He and Randy Johnson defined the art of pitching in the early 2000's. He might not have the sense of 'aw yeah, he's a Hall of Famer' like the other five do, but he'll gain it over time. Odds: 6:1

Edgar Martinez. I really hate all the people who don't think Edgar belongs in the Hall. He's the Greatest DH of All Time, for frick's sake. I don't care if the Hall only likes position players, he was a great hitter for a decade. He made Mariners games fun in the time before and after they had all those stars. His hitting abilities alone should propel him in, but since some sportswriters don't care about DHs, his expectancy is low. Odds: 8:1

Dale Murphy. This is Dale's last year on the ballot, and while he probably won't get in, part of me wants him to. For the Braves, he was a great hitter, a great defensive player, and a great person to root for. A lot of Braves fans want him in, and that I understand. I think he's...okay, and I'm putting him on the ballot because there's a chance he might get in, but I don't know if he will. Odds: 10:1

Bernie Williams. I highly doubt that Bernie will make it to next year's ballot, but I wanted to give him some of the respect he deserves. During the World Series run the Yanks had, he was the most productive hitter. He was a great home run hitter and outfielder in the 90's. He was the star of the team, really, during the season after Mattingly retired, just as Jeter was coming up. I doubt he'll make the hall, but he'll always have that Grammy. Odds: 25:1

Barry Bonds. This is the most controversial item on my list, because everybody else is torn about it. I'm against steroid abusers, but I didn't think anyone else had a good reason for the hall.So, I'll go with Barry, who hit the most home runs of all time, had the most single season home runs, and just so happened to take PEDs. Just for this instance, I'll use this metaphor. The Beatles were high on acid when they made albums like Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour, and high on other drugs when they made everything else together. Yet they still recieved a number of Grammys and awards. You could argue that they cheated, and say they couldn't have made the music they did without being under the influence of those drugs, but at the end of the day, they still made the music and they still should be commemorated for it. Barry Bonds is still one of the greatest hitters of all time, despite the fact that he cheated. I doubt he'll get in this year, but he might eventually. Odds: Too Close to Call

As for everyone else, I left out a lot of people because they didn't really deserve it. Don Mattingly finally left my gaze, and I doubt he'll make it. Alan Trammell I never liked. Lee Smith doesn't have the credentials needed to make the hall. Fred McGriff came so close, but he just barely misses. Larry Walker isn't a Hall of Famer. Kenny Lofton needs to wait a few years. Clemens, Sosa, Palmiero and McGwire will only get in if Bonds does, or if any of them do. Shawn Green, while a great hitter, just isn't a Hall of Famer.

Everyone else isn't qualified, and will probably leave the roster this year. Unless the small community of Woody Williams fans garners ballots.

So that's it. I expect Craig Biggio and Jack Morris to get in this year, though I'll settle for any of the ten I listed. It'll take me a while to settle for Bonds, but if he's elected, alright then.

Until the 2014 ballot nears, that's all on the matter. Then Greg Maddux will get 100% of the vote.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

As the NFL Playoffs roll on

This is a baseball card blog, and it has been a baseball card blog for close to four years now. So why am I about to give my predictions on football? Because...this is my blog. And I feel like talking about a subject I'm somewhat acquainted with, in a medium that may not understand.

I'll go through all four of next week's highly anticipated playoff games. For each, I'll give my thoughts on who will win the game, and on who should win the game. Because, ladies and gentlemen, there is a difference between what ability can allow, and what storytelling can make desirable.

Game One: Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers. The Cold vs. The Wharf
Who Will Win: Packers. They're the better team, have a better quarterback, with better offensive players and a rapidly increasing defense. Plus, the team is stronger that the Niners, even if they have the advantage.
Who Should Win: Packers. The last time these two teams met, the Niners won. If I was writing this, I'd want some aspect of redemption, as the Packers would need to defeat the 49ers to really redeem themselves, and to advance. Also, the Packers have a better story, and were solid this week against Minnesota. If anyone should win, it should be them.

Game Two: Seattle Seahawks vs. Atlanta Falcons. Battle of the Birds
Who Will Win: Falcons. Easily the better team, have more experience than the Hawks, and have a better overall team. Also, unlike the Seahawks, who just had a streak at the end, the Falcons were consistently good the whole season, and got to the top very easily.
Who Should Win: Seahawks. Even though the Falcons are the better team, like I said before, they got here easily. The Seahawks are the favorite because they worked for it, and had to become a great team, rather than just being one like the Falcons. Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll were the two amazing stories out of Seattle, and for those two alone they deserve to advance.

Game Three: Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos. The Harbor vs. The Mountains
Who Will Win: Broncos. Manning has been so good this season that it's impossible to lose.The team got so much stronger after Tebow that it's become ridiculous. The Broncos have no chance of losing.
Who Should Win: Broncos. Only because it would complete Manning's storyline, and get him one step closer to A- Matching his brother in terms of rings, and B- Redeeming himself from the injury-plagued 2011. It's the outcome that holds the most plausibility, and makes the most sense.

Game Four: Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots. Yee Haw vs. Haavard Yaad.
Who Will Win: Patriots. Because they win everything.
Who Should Win: Texans. Because I don't think ANYBODY wants the Patriots to win. Everything this season has been building to a Texans success, and that would imply them defeating the Patriots. Besides, that's a team trying desperately hard to reviatlize itself when really still being a mostly aged squad. The Texans is mostly young, with a lot of strong compartments and a loyal following. They're the team that deserves it most.

So there. I predict next week's games to be Packers- Falcons and Broncos-Texans. I won't predict the Super Bowl. That comes later.

Berkman returns home, sort of

There were rumors, about a month ago, that the Astros were trying to get Lance Berkman back to Texas. They wanted him to be their DH, and to hit homers for them like it was the mid-2000's. After all, Berkman would get the older fans to go back to their games.

This plan didn't misfire in vain- Berkman is still coming back to Texas. Just not to Houston.

The Rangers, a struggling team who lost their major star, signed Berkman last night. Say. Haven't we heard this story before? Lance Berkman being signed by a team who just lost its biggest star, hoping to return to the postseason?

Okay, that's sorta what happened to Beltran, and the season Pujols left, Berkman was hurt, but you get the idea. Berkman has been in this situation before. He can hit his way out of it and surprise everyone. The only problem is now the stakes are higher. The Rangers' only postseason glory has been these last few years, and they all wanna get back. Berkman is going to need a season like the one he had in 2011 in order to help pull this off.

It has been done before, but can it be repeated? Only Berkman can help find this out.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

To the Cubs: Think about this for a second

It is one thing to continuously be the worst team in baseball. It is another entirely to make moves in the offseason that further solidify this status, and not do a thing about it. So continues the troubled journey of the once-terrific and currently-a-punchline Chicago Cubs

It is of note that the Cubs did not finish in last place in their division for the past two years. Well, now that the Astros are moving to the AL, it's safe to say they'll end up back in last this year. Why? Well, I'm about to list several offseason moves that may not have been incredibly great choices.
  • Yesterday, January 4th- Signs Edwin Jackson to a four year deal. Edwin's a great pitcher, but not for four years. He's the kind of pitcher you sign for one year, and you ultimately end up trading at the deadline. This has happened multiple times, and he is on track to break Octavio Dotel's record. Signing him to a four year deal will not help this.
  • December 21st- signs Nate Schierholtz to a one year deal. Unfortunately for Chicago, the world doesn't end. Schierholtz is a low-rate, meh-ish outfielder who did absolutely nothing for my team next year, making him the white Xavier Nady. Why did the Cubs sign him? I don't know.
  • December 17th- re-signs Ian Stewart. Because he did so well for them last year. Matter of fact, the Cubs actually declined an option on Stewart a few weeks before, until suddenly they did the opposite of come to their senses and resigned the kid. A shame, too. His best days were in Colorado.
  • November 27th- Signs Scott Feldman to a one year deal. The one Rangers pitcher that isn't Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish or Derek Holland. Nice aim, Cubs. Feldman will be okay at best.
  • November 16th- Signs Dioner Navarro to a one year deal. His best days are way behind him, he hasn't had a good hitting year since his days with Tampa, and his age is taking away from his catching ability. Sounds like a great backup catcher!
  • November 14th- Signs Scott Baker to a one-year deal. Wow, the 3rd starter for a terrible Twins team. Sure to be great for the Cubs rotation.
But, unfortunately, it gets worse. As if all of the above stuff isn't enough to drive them into the ground, apparently the Cubs are thinking about bringing Dontrelle Willis out of retirement.

The same Dontrelle Willis who was terrific for the Marlins, then once traded to Detroit forgot to pitch, prompting trades to Arizona, San Francisco, Cincinatti, and finally Philly, where he was deemed to awful to pitch, sent to the Orioles' minor system, and subsequently retired.

That guy.

And the Cubs see a great pitcher in him for 2013. Seriously.

Nothing can sum up the Cubs' offseason moves more than this. The Cubs want to sign a retired pitcher who was last seen in the Orioles' minor league system, lost his ability to hit the strike zone, and wears his hat at a 45 degree angle.

So for the Cubs to be a force in 2014, because we know 2013's gonna go right down the crapper (unless something miraculous happens), they need to scrap all these crappy players, start relying more on the decent-enough farm system, and actually make sensible decisions in terms of signing players. Then, they'll actually get out of last.

And back into 2nd to last place.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ways Topps can have a big year in 2013

2012, in retrospect, wasn't very different from 2011 and 2010, in terms of baseball cards. Topps released the same kinds of sets, the same kinds of people bought them, the same kinds of gimmicks occurred, and the products seem very similar. The inserts, for the most part, have been exactly the same in four recurring sets in the past few years. So, for the most part, there was no real difference for the baseball card medium in the past two years.

Actually, I lied. There's one big difference that separated 2012 from the years that preceded it- last year, Topps had competition.

Like in 2010, the competition was small, and unlicensed, and forgettable in the grand scheme of things. But unlike in 2010, the competitors put out two really good products that appealed to two specific audiences, and immediately won them over.

Panini, a card brand known for its Football and Basketball cards, put out two baseball sets last year, Triple Play and Cooperstown, and I've heard a lot of good things about both sets. Triple Play especially, because it was a kids' set that appealed to a lot of adults. And also, because it reminds me of National Chicle.

But, if a lot of people told me these two sets are good, this boils down to one huge factor: people are buying Panini cards.

If people are saying that the competition is good, people will buy their packs. Even in a year, like 2012, where Topps put out a lot of bad products (maybe not bad, just not as good, like this years A&G). If Panini's products continue to learn from last year and make better, albeit unlicensed, sets, and more of them, then more people will buy Panini cards than Topps, which is a grave prospect indeed.

So, with this in mind, it's becoming very crucial that Topps have a good year in 2013. Their releases need to be better than some of last year's, improvements need to be made, and they need to get the interest back.

It's not like they haven't done it before. Within a decade, Topps managed to run all its competitors out of business, and that was just the 2000's. Topps can deal with competition well, because they're the long standing tradition, and they know how to make great baseball card sets.

So, here are five simple, easy, and incredibly important ways Topps can improve their success this coming year. They're thought out, intelligent, and still within bounds.
  1. Improve the flagship set- New Ideas Welcome. Topps, if anything, is known for its main release, the solid 660 card set of players, dressed in a nice looking design, served with curious inserts. A lot of those aspects have been faulty in the last few years. The 2012 design, while simple, was forgettable and not one of the best. Also, the inserts were unoriginal, and ultimately boring. And, like I said, it seemed to echo the two sets that came before it. 2013 has those two elements ironed out for this year- they have a great looking design, and they have incredibly cool looking inserts. My advice- keep the new ideas coming. They obviously worked enough for the sell sheet, so think of new, creative inserts, and new creative ideas for the base sets. I know the product's already done, but this is more for Series 2 and Update. For example, if there's some inserts that really work this year- STICK WITH THEM! Then, they'll truly grow on collectors. Or, if it's a good idea that just wasn't executed well, like Blockbusters, then fix it for the next year.  A lot of last year's inserts were just rehashes of the stale Peak Performances, Legendary Lineage and anything else. This year's seem more inspired, more creative, and if they work, Topps needs to keep them going. Also, don't rely on gimmicks to speed the product forward. This will only drive more old school collectors away. I can already think of two old school collectors, on the blog, who already said they won't be collecting 2013 Topps. And that's just off the top of my head. So at least make the flagship set interesting. And if that fails...
  2. Improve your other well-known sets- Listen to the Collectors. I'm talking more about four sets that were simply okay in 2012, and need to be fixed, or thrown out all together. They are Allen and Ginter, Bowman, Archives and Gypsy Queen. With the exception of A&G, they've all been confirmed for another go next year, and I'm pretty sure Topps will continue A&G anyway. What Topps needs to do to revitalize these sets is give collectors what they want. The fans complained about Archives' cardstock- give them Heritage-like cardstock. The collectors wanted a well designed Allen and Ginter set. Make a set design that seems original, but still simple enough to not impede on the photo like it did this year. The fans wanted a better Bowman set. Well...go back to some of the ideas that made the set great, in the 1990's. And I don't mean literally get those designs for inserts, because they'll do that. Think of an original design that isn't the same old thing, that doesn't get boring after a while. The fans wanted a Gypsy Queen set that was as good as the 2011 one. Well, give them one! Get a better design (which they have), have cooler inserts, make it a fun set to collect, not unlike National Chicle! The collectors have been trying to help Topps here, and they should listen. Also, they should be listening to another demographic-
  3. Release a rebuttal to Triple Play- a kids set that isn't mailed in. Yes, I just called Opening Day mailed in. Why? Because it's the exact same base set as the flagship, only less foil. That's the definition of mailed in. Topps needs to learn from Panini, and make a set that kids, and adults, can have fun collecting. National Chicle was the perfect example of this, because all it was was art on cards, with players. No substance, no stats. Triple Play did this and it worked. Topps needs to do something like this. I'm not saying bring back Fun Pack, but something along those lines. And THAT could be the 99 cent packs, not Opening Day. Hell, if you wanted it to be less mailed in, grab Topps Total! I don't think that was mailed in! Speaking of mailed in...
  4. If you're going to do an online giveaway, at least...give things away. 2012's Golden Giveaway was a failure because it was incredibly hard to actually unlock a card. I never unlocked a single card in my entire time on that site. I tried. Many. Freaking. Times. But I never did. Give me the Diamond Giveaway, give me the Million Card Giveaway, something that can be a bit contrived, but STILL GIVES AWAY CARDS! The Chase one they're doing this year. I really, really hope it involved giving away cards. Because, if not, Topps will just be ripping us off. Oh hey, a coin I can only use online, and can't earn me anything except an autographed baseball I won't win. None of that. This year, make an online giveaway that's fun, interesting, and gives cards away. Oh, and one that doesn't expire for 100 years, so that people ripping packs of it in 10 years can still redeem cards. 
  5. Don't be afraid to take a risk. A lot of the stuff Topps is coming out with lately seems very safe, in that it's stuff that either has worked before, or looks like it might work. They haven't taken too many risks since they were granted an exclusive license. I need more of that. Put out a risky card set, one that's a really good idea that people may not buy. Because if it's a good idea, sooner or later people will buy. And by a risk, I mean a card set outside of your comfort zone. Do something you wouldn't have done last year. Do a 200 card set with thicker cardstock, a slicker design, and a few parallels. Make a cool, futuristic set like people did in the 1990's. Make a set of cards like Topps 2020 from a few years ago. Something like any of those. Think outside the box. People will like those kinds of ideas, people will buy it and see what it's all about. People aren't curious about ideas they know are going to succeed. Because they buy a product they know, because they knew it was good last year. There's no curiosity there. That's in a new set, one people don't know, but looks really cool. Topps needs some of those. 
Well, that's my two cents on the matter. If Topps follows any, or all, of these tips, they can slaughter Panini, and reclaim their superiority in the business. If not, if Topps continues to play it safe and use the same tired ideas, we may be looking at a Panini cardboard world in 20 years. I hope not, though.